norse mythology

Historical Fiction

vaulted cellarHistory has always been one of my favorite topics.

In college, I started out as a double major in English: Creative Writing and History with an emphasis on European History. That didn’t end up happening since I was so ready to be done with school. Knowing how helpful the time I’ve spent learning from Romance Writers of America and the internet has been, I wish I’d gone with the History major instead.

But I digress.

I’ve always loved historical romance novels and historical fiction. At one point, I didn’t feel comfortable writing them and the level of research that go into something like that. They still do intimidate me, even though I’ve written a fantasy romance series set in medieval Ireland, a Wild West paranormal romance novella, and co-wrote an urban fantasy romance that takes place in an alternate reality Ireland.

Regardless, I sincerely admire authors who write them. I’ve accepted that paranormal romance and urban fantasy placed in contemporary times is more my forte.

Anyways.

My favorite historical time period and location is Dark Ages and Medieval Europe, particularly in Scandinavia (Vikings!) and the UK and Ireland. So many fascinating things happened, and I love reading about mythology. When my husband and I have traveled, we always try to hit the museums.

There’s also ancient Greece and Rome. I’ve read a couple of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books that incorporate that time period, which were really cool.

I’m very passionate about history. Surprisingly, it’s been a while since I’ve read a historical romance or fiction. That genre is on my TBR list this year, though, since I’m challenging myself to read wide.

What are your favorite time periods to read about? Do you have favorite time periods you don’t feel are represented enough in fiction?

Leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think!

Until next week,

Sarah

R is for Ratatoskr

Ratatoskr in a 17th century
Icelandic manuscript.

Name: Ratatoskr (Typically means “drill-tooth” or “bore-tooth,” although some say based off its etymology that it’d be more like rata-/rati- for “the traveler” and -toskr for “tusk.” Basically “the climber tusk” or “tusk the traveler.”)

Type: nature spirit

Origin: Norse mythology

Description: Ratatoskr is… a squirrel. *grins* He climbs up and down Yggdrasil, the world tree, to take messages between the unnamed eagle at the top and the wyrm Níðhöggr who lives under one of the tree roots at the bottom. According to the 16th chapter of Prose Edda‘s Gylfaginning, Ratatoskr “runs up and down the ash. He tells slanderous gossip, provoking the eagle and Níðhöggr.” Some say the fact Ratatoskr is portrayed as a lowly squirrel is due to his behavior in stirring up trouble.

Interesting Facts: He can be found in both the Poetic Edda, which is a compilation of Old Norse poems and a very important source of information about Norse mythology, as well as Prose Edda, which was written by Snorri Sturluson in approximately 1220. The Prose Edda contains eddic and skaldic poetry poetry about Norse mythology. For such a small creature, there’s a lot of different theories on both his name and purpose/role in Norse mythology.

Have you heard of Ratatoskr before? Any “R” creatures or beings you know of?

J is for Jörmungandr

“Thor in Hymir’s boat battling
the Midgard Serpent” (1788) by Henry Fuseli

Name: Jörmungandr (also known as the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent)

Type: Legendary serpent, son of Loki

Origin Norse mythology

Description: Jörmungandr was one of three children of Loki and Angrboða. In the Prose Edda, an Icelandic collection which includes tales from Norse mythology, Odin “tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard. The serpent grew so large that he was able to surround the earth and grasp his own tail. As a result, he received the name of the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. When he lets go, the world will end.”

Interesting Facts: Thor is the Jörmungandr’s arch-enemy. They are mentioned in three myths together. Loki and Angrboða’s other two children are Fenrir and Hel.

Have you heard of the Jörmungandr before?

D is for Doppelgänger

Today’s belated trip sponsored by the letter D takes us throughout Europe with a brief dip into Egypt, since while the word is German, there are several mythologies which have their own versions of it.

Name: Doppelgänger (means “double walker”)

Type: Paranormal, usually ghostly double.

Origin: European mythology/folklore

Description: They are typically described as the feeling of glimpsing at oneself in your peripheral vision, somewhere you couldn’t possibly be catching your reflection. They can be either shadowy, vague figures or life-like.

Interesting Facts: The mythologies I found that include doppelgängers are Norse mythology, in which it’s a spirit predecessor who goes before the living person and can be seen performing their actions before they do. It is called a vardøger. Finnish mythology has an etiäinen (which means “a firstcomer”) that is a spirit summoned by a shaman or person in great need so they can receive information. It looks and acts like the person who summoned it in order to obtain the message.

Finally, there’s the ka (meaning “spirit double”) in Ancient Egyptian mythology, which is a copy of the original person’s feelings and memories. It’s used in the Egyptian’s take on the Trojan War in “The Greek Princess” where Helen’s ka misled Paris of Troy to help stop the war.

Something else of interest is the fact that according to Nature, a scientific magazine, while being treated for epilepsy by using electromagnetic stimulation of the patient’s brain, the woman experienced the awareness of a doppelgänger near her, even though she was psychologically healthy. Also, several famous people such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Abraham Lincoln reportedly experienced their ghostly doubles as well.

Source: Wikipedia

Have you heard of the doppelgänger before? If so, where did you learn about it?

Reincarnation

Hi everyone! I’m hastily working on edits this week, so today’s Into The Paranormal post will be me rambling some on a topic instead of packed with in depth research. haha

So, reincarnation… Here is Wikipedia’s definition of it:

Reincarnation is believed to occur when the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, comes back to life in a newborn body. However, once born in a new body, things from a person’s previous life are forgotten. This doctrine is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism; the Buddhist concept of rebirth is also often referred to as reincarnation.

I’ve seen movies, TV shows, and read novels dealing with it, but I haven’t really studied it much. I saw an episode of Blood Ties once about a guy and a woman that had so many lifetimes together, and in each life, they would find each other by going back to a certain tree. In the current life, she was older than him and had gotten married, but he insisted on them being together to the point where he tried to mess up her marriage. It was romantic at first, but then it turned into downright creepy.

I think I prefer the concept of living my life and then my soul moving on to the afterlife. This world can be challenging enough without the thought of living in it several more times! *grins* Besides, if people did reincarnate why would there be such thing as ghosts and spirits trapped here on earth? They would go on to their next life instead right?

Hmm… Never say never…

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Reincarnation from the Latin word means “entering the flesh again.”
  • Reincarnation exists in Norse mythology in the Poetic Edda. The poem, Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar, tells the story of Helgi Hjörvarðsson’s love with the valkyrie, Sváfa. They reincarnate twice once as Helgi Hundingsbane and the valkyrie Sigrún and again as Helgi Haddingjaskati and the valkyrie Kára.

What do you think about reincarnation? Do you believe in it, or are you skeptical?

V is for Valkyrie

Valkyries, from Norse mythology, are “the chooser of the slain.” This comes parts of the Old Norse name valkyrjur with valr meaning “slain on the battlefied” and kjósa meaning “to choose.” These warrior women are an ingrained part of the mythology and viking culture.

Valkyrie are fierce women, with blond hair and tall build. Wielding a gilded shield and a sword, trident or spear as their preferred weapon, they are viewed truly worthy of welcoming any brave warrior to Valhalla. They select only the most heroic of the fallen and bring them to Odin.

When not on battlefields, the valkyrie served mead to the fallen in Odin’s great hall. They also are usually described as the lovers of great warriors. They are associated with swans and can even shapeshift into them.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • While depicted on various amulets from the Scandinavia to the Germany, the myth of valkyries (as well as Old Norse runestones and traditions) has traveled far beyond those regions with the Vikings, even becoming part of other cultures.
  • Some believe that the origins of the valkyries point to demons who hunted the souls of the fallen and captured them for slaves after battle. Others claim they are the female personification of death, who reaps the souls from fallen men.
  • Valkyries aren’t an entirely new subject on my blog. For more information, check out Into the Paranormal: Fylgjur and Valkyjur.
Your turn! What do you think about Valkyries? Have you read, watched, or played something with one in it?

T is for Troll

Trolls are originally from Norse mythology. They later moved into general Scandinavian folklore. Hideous, deformed, dimwitted, very old and strong, trolls are giants compared to normal men. Trolls have always been the unkind kin to the jötnar.

They live alone or in very small packs, usually in the countryside or a mountainous area. Trolls are lonesome and rarely friendly. Also, they tend to be highly suspicious of anything new in their surroundings. The age and wisdom trolls have give them an uncanny edge to magic, allowing them to control the primal forces of nature and the elements. While powerful, their magic is unsophisticated and sometimes even clumsy.

Trolls hide away from the deadly sunlight that can turn them to stone, spending time in caves during the daytime to rest. Many odd mountains and rock formations are said to have been trolls either caught in the daylight or hit by the lightning, turning them to stone right where they had stood.

The trolls were societies way of explaining formations of rock, mineral deposits and even disappearances of people and livestock. Their appearance and size as well as brutish behavior tended to be used as a deterrent to children inside before the woodlands got too dark. It was also a way to ridicule bullies with younger children, and to coax them away from their bad behavior. Scandinavian tales speak of multiple breeds of trolls. There were forest trolls, swamp trolls, ice and fire trolls as well as mountain trolls, who were giants even to other types.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Very strong magic can be used to wake up a troll that has become stone. However, it usually involves a sacrifice or two.
  • Trolls are rarely cannibals, but they eat humans very eagerly, viewing them as a lesser than species.
  • When trolls migrated, they take on characteristics of their new home, for instance a forest troll can become swamp troll-like if it moves to a swampy forest after a while.

So, what are your thoughts on Trolls? Have you read, watched, or played something with one in it?

J is for Jötunn

The jötnar Fafner and Fasolt seize Freyja.

Jötunn are giants from old Norse mythology. They’re extremely strong nature spirits. Their home is Jǫtunheimar, one of the nine worlds in Norse cosmology. They live well with homes fashioned like those of the gods.

Some jötnar (plural of jötunn) are described as having long claws, fangs, and deformed appearances. As well as being really tall. Others are sometimes given opposite descriptions, except the tall part. While trolls are hideous and have features like those of neanderthals, the jötnar resemble normal people through their general facial features. However, they might have multiple heads (depending on the individual), which can look into different directions.

They also live a long time and can be very knowledgeable and wise. When it comes to magic, they tend to be shamanic and make use of their brute power, allowing it to do most of their work for them. Unlike trolls, the jötnar are unaffected by sunlight and will not turn to stone like their distant cousins. This means that while the majority of populace are safe during the day, shepherds tend to disappear while herding sheep, and thus, naturally are considered to be eaten.

Here is what wikipedia says in regards to their origins:

The first living being formed in the primeval chaos known as Ginnungagap was a giant of monumental size, called Ymir. When he slept a jötunn son and a jötunn daughter grew from his armpits, and his two feet procreated and gave birth to a son, a monster with six heads. These three beings gave rise to the race of hrímþursar (rime thurs), who populated Niflheim, the world of mist, chill and ice. The gods instead claim their origin from a certain Búri. When the giant Ymir subsequently was slain by Odin, Vili and Vé (the grandsons of Búri), his blood (i.e. water) deluged Niflheim and killed all of the jötnar, apart from one known as Bergelmir and his spouse, who then repopulated their kind.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • In Norse mythology, it’s said that fire jötnar, or fire giants, will torch the world at the end of Ragnarök, killing all the people, some of the gods, and themselves. All except for a man and a woman Odin sets aside in a forest that doesn’t burn.
  • While jötnar are tied to Norway, they have also spread to England, where they are known as Ettin. 
  • In later times, trolls began to replace jötnar and took on many of their traits. Due to that, people started viewing them as one in the same.
Have you heard of Jötnar before? If so, where? Also, is there a mythological being you’re itching to read about? Let me know!

E is for Elf

Yes, it’s true! Today’s topic for the A to Z challenge isn’t as obscure as the past two have been. Surprisingly, I racked my brain trying to think of a topic today before smacking myself upside the head. Scary really, since a life-sized Legolas shares my office with me.

Legolas from Lord of the Rings.

So, Elves are beings originally from Germanic mythology (basically Old Norse, Old English, and German). They’re also featured in modern folklore (Scandinavian, German, English & Scottish, and don’t forget Santa’s helpers). In Norse mythology, they’re divided between light elves (Ljósálfar) and dark elves (Dökkálfar). They have magical powers which they can use to help mankind or hurt it. Also, they’re very connected with nature and tend to live in forests and away from people.

Appearance-wise, elves are famous for their pointed ears and delicate beauty. Light elves tend to look like my friend Legolas up there with light hair, pale skin, and blue eyes. Dark elves, on the other hand, have black hair, dark eyes, and black skin. In terms of behavior, while dark elves tend to stay away from people and can be slightly hostile, light elves are willing to talk to people provided you’re able to meet one.

Having a dislike in iron (since it limits their powers), elves prefer the finer metals of silver or gold. Their normal working tools tend to be bronze. This is one of the reasons why elves utilize bows and arrows, as well as the obvious advantage of having their enemies at a distance.

Elves have become a staple to the fantasy genre both in literature and gaming, helped by the success of the hugely popular roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Some variations of elves depict them as very small-statured. This was especially prominent in Victorian literature.
  • The way elves appear in the high fantasy genre and J.R.R. Tolkien’s work (Lord of the Rings, etc.) comes from influence of 19th century Romanticism and its depiction of them being very beautiful beings.
  • Santa’s helpers “Christmas elves” became popular in the 1870s.
It’s your turn! Who are your favorite Elves? What books, movies, or games have you enjoyed with them in it?

Into the Paranormal: Fylgjur and Valkyrjur in Norse Mythology

So! Last week I discussed Fylgja and delved into my topic of this week a little bit of how Fylgja seem to resemble Valkyries (Valkyrjur). Fylgja are guardian spirits that take shape in either the form of an animal or a woman and watch over a certain person or family. If the person sees their Fylgja, it’s a sign that their death is immediate. Interestingly enough, the Fylgja takes on the features of the person it is assigned to protect.

Valkyries are warrior women who brought the souls of their chosen slain heroes to Valhalla, which is the “hall of the slain” (aka Norse afterlife) that the Norse god Odin ruled. They did protect the chosen warrior as well as well as They associated themselves with swans and had the ability to shapeshift into one. They could also appear as women in the form of the heroes’ lovers or another mortal.

According to one source, valkyries and fylgjur are “Fates, who direct a man’s destiny from birth to death.” One part of the source seems to lump them together as if they are one spiritual guardian that changes roles as the person’s life progress, but other sources oppose the idea, proving that they are two different types of guardians with their own role. I lean in favor of this explanation since it seems like they seem specialized and not run of the mill guardians.

Overall, this was a very fun topic to learn about. Links to a few of the different sources I visited are listed below if you’d like to research the topic further for a story idea, or if you’re like me, just for fun even. It’s always great to find new things to write about in the paranormal genre. And I hope you all have enjoyed this as much as I. Give me your thoughts and opinions about this topic. Or let me know what other kinds of paranormal creatures you’d like me to discuss! *smiles*

http://www.franks-casket.de/english/extro03.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valkyrie